John Tortorella

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John Tortorella
John Tortorella.jpg
Tortorella while coaching the New York Rangers
Born (1958-06-24) June 24, 1958 (age 56)
Boston, MA, U.S.
Height 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Weight 175 lb (79 kg; 12 st 7 lb)
Position Right Wing
Shot Left
Played for Virginia Lancers
Playing career 1982–1986

John Robert Tortorella[1] (born June 24, 1958) is an American ice hockey coach. Tortorella has held the position of head coach of the Vancouver Canucks (2013–2014), the New York Rangers (2009–2013) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (2001–2008). He led Tampa Bay to the 2004 Stanley Cup championship and compiled a 239–222–36–38 record with the Lightning.[2]

Early life[edit]

Tortorella attended Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord, Massachusetts, and he is listed on the school's athletic Hall of Fame wall (1976). He also attended the University of Maine, graduating in 1981.[1] John's brother Jim Tortorella is also listed on the wall.

Tortorella, nicknamed 'The Paper Italian',[3] played right wing for three years (1978–81) at the University of Maine of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). While at Maine, he played along with his brother Jim, the goaltender, who now serves as assistant men's coach for the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. After college Tortorella went to Sweden to play a year in Kristianstads IK (1981–82), after which he came back to the US to play four years of minor pro hockey (1982–86) in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League (ACHL). During these years he skated with the Hampton Roads Gulls, Erie Golden Blades, Nashville South Stars and the Virginia Lancers.[4]

During his days in the ACHL, Tortorella briefly played with Oren Koules while with the Hampton Roads Gulls. The two later reunited in Tampa Bay, as Tortorella was the coach and Koules was one of the new owners of the Lightning. He never played a game in the NHL.

ECHL[edit]

Tortorella has been credited by East Coast Hockey League founders Henry Brabham and Bill Coffey with coming up with the name for the league during a league meeting at a Ramada Inn in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At the time, Tortorella was the head coach of Brabham's Virginia Lancers, but left the Lancers to become the assistant coach of the American Hockey League's New Haven Nighthawks before the ECHL's inaugural season in 1988.[5]

Coaching career[edit]

Tortorella's coaching career began with the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Rochester Americans and the ECHL's Virginia Lancers. He was also an assistant coach for the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks and Rochester Americans, and the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes and New York Rangers. He won the Calder Cup with the 1996 Rochester Americans.

Tortorella—or "Torts" as he is sometimes called by the press—is known for his outspoken nature—which has included criticizing his own players—and for his unusual system of regularly rotating goaltending duties during his time in Tampa Bay; a system which was discontinued when he became head coach of the New York Rangers and could use Henrik Lundqvist as the regular starting goalie.

Tampa Bay Lightning[edit]

Tortorella took over the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2000–01 as a mid-season replacement. He inherited a team that had been among the dregs of the league for four years, having lost 50 games or more in every season during that time. The team won only 12 of its last 43 games under his watch, finishing last in the division. The following season, the team finished well out of playoff contention despite finishing third in the Southeast Division. However, they showed signs of life for the first time in five years, cracking the 60-point barrier for the first time since 1996-97.

The 2002–03 season marked Tortorella's first winning season as an NHL head coach, as the Lightning won their first Southeast Division title, losing to the New Jersey Devils four games to one in the second round of the 2003 playoffs. At the end of the season he was also recognized as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, losing out to Minnesota's Jacques Lemaire.

In 2003–04, Tortorella's fourth season with the team, the Lightning ran away with the Southeast Division title, tallying 106 points—the second-best record in the league. The Lightning were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and proceeded to defeat the New York Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Philadelphia Flyers to win the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Eastern Conference Championship. In the Stanley Cup Finals, they defeated the Western Conference champion Calgary Flames four games to three, winning the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. In doing so Tortorella became just the third American-born coach to win it and the first in 13 years. The team was in its eleventh year of existence. It was the last Stanley Cup won before the 2004–05 NHL lockout. A few days after winning the Stanley Cup, Tortorella won the 2004 Jack Adams Award as coach of the year.

Before the start of the 2005–06 season – the NHL's first post-lockout campaign – Tampa Bay's starting goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin left the team due to the newly implemented salary cap restrictions. Tortorella was hard on Lightning goaltender John Grahame for much of the 2005–06. Grahame subsequently signed with the Carolina Hurricanes before the start of the 2006–07 season. Despite the Lightning winning a 2nd-team best 44 games in 2006–07, the Lightning were unable to defend their division title.

He was involved in controversy yet again after game five of Lightning's series against the New Jersey Devils during the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs. During a press conference during which Tortorella was visibly disappointed, he refused to answer questions directly, saying only "We know what we did" each time a reporter asked a question. When New York Post reporter Larry Brooks asked "What did you do?" Tortorella refused to explain. Frustrated, Brooks eventually asked, "Are you not answering questions, or what?" and when Tortorella answered that he was not, Brooks called the interview "a waste of time." Tortorella then told Brooks to "get the fuck out of here" live on CBC television.

Tortorella was fined $10,000 by the NHL for negative comments he made about the on-ice officials after a 4–3 overtime loss at the Atlanta Thrashers on November 19, 2007.

On March 11, 2008 with the Lightning defeat of the New York Islanders, Tortorella passed Bob Johnson as the most successful American-born NHL coach with 235 victories.

After he left the Lightning, Tortorella was an in-studio panelist on the NHL on TSN. During this time, on November 7, 2008, Peter Laviolette would overtake his victory total for an American coach.

New York Rangers[edit]

Tortorella was named head coach of the New York Rangers on February 23, 2009, replacing Tom Renney, who was relieved of his duties earlier that day.[6] On March 17, he again became the American-born coach with the most wins in NHL history, this time surpassing Laviolette.

Tortorella was suspended one game by the NHL for an altercation with several Capitals fans behind the bench in the third period of Game 5 in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. Replays show the fan clearly heckling Tortorella through verbal jeering, before Tortorella responded by throwing a water bottle at a fan before grabbing a stick from Aaron Voros and trying to spear the fan through a space between 2 panes of glass. He did not receive a penalty on the play despite the fact that NHL rules state any physical altercations with fans result in ejection from a game; however, the next day the NHL suspended him.[7]

When Laviolette became coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2009, the rivalry between the two teams became further heated with Tortorella and Laviolette being the U.S.-born coaches with the most wins in NHL history.

In the 2011–12 season he guided the Rangers to the franchise's third ever 50-win season and the best record in the Eastern Conference with a total of 51-24-7 for 109 points. New York lost in the Conference Finals however, to the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. At season's end, Tortorella became a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for a 3rd time, losing to Ken Hitchcock of St. Louis.

On March 26, 2013 with a 5-2 defeat of Laviolette's Flyers, John Tortorella became the first U.S.-born coach to reach 400 career victories.

The Rangers fired Tortorella on Wednesday May 29, 2013, four days after New York was eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

Vancouver Canucks[edit]

The Vancouver Canucks announced Tortorella as the team's new coach on June 25, 2013. He replaced Alain Vigneault, who coincidentally had been hired by the Rangers to replace Tortorella.

Tortorella earned his first victory with the Canucks against the Edmonton Oilers on October 5, 2013, with a final score of 6-2.

During the first intermission of a game on January 18, 2014, Tortorella entered the Calgary Flames dressing room area in an apparent attempt to confront Flames coach Bob Hartley; after a line brawl in the opening seconds of the 1st period, Tortorella angrily attempted to confront Hartley, suspecting he may have sent a lineup intent to injure a major player. Tortorella had to be physically restrained by several players and coaches. The NHL subsequently suspended him for 15 days without pay, barring him from being in contact with the team during his suspension. Canucks assistant coach Mike Sullivan took over the head coaching job during Tortorella's suspension.[8] Tortorella was fired on May 1, 2014.[9]

United States national men's hockey team[edit]

Tortorella was also the assistant coach of the U.S. National Men's hockey team in 2008-2009[10] replacing Peter Laviolette, which included leading the squad at the 2008 IIHF World Championship, where they finished sixth.

NHL coaching record[edit]

Statistics up to date to the end of 2013-14

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
G W L T OTL Pts Finish W L Win % Result
NYR 1999–2000* 4 0 3 1 - 1 4th in Atlantic (73 Pts.) Missed Playoffs (Interim Coach)
TB 2000–01* 43 12 17 1 3 28 5th in Southeast (59 Pts.) Missed Playoffs (Interim Coach)
TB 2001–02 82 27 40 11 4 69 3rd in Southeast Missed Playoffs
TB 2002–03 82 36 25 16 5 93 1st in Southeast 5 6 .455 Lost in Second Round (NJ)
TB 2003–04 82 46 22 8 6 106 1st in Southeast 16 7 .696 Won Stanley Cup (CGY)
TB 2005–06 82 43 33 - 6 92 2nd in Southeast 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round (OTT)
TB 2006–07 82 44 33 - 5 93 2nd in Southeast 2 4 .333 Lost in First Round (NJ)
TB 2007–08 82 31 42 - 9 71 5th in Southeast - - Missed Playoffs (Fired)
NYR 2008–09* 21 12 7 - 2 26 4th in Atlantic (95 Pts.) 3 4 .429 Lost in First Round (WSH)
NYR 2009–10 82 38 33 - 11 87 4th in Atlantic - - - Missed Playoffs
NYR 2010–11 82 44 33 - 5 93 3rd in Atlantic 1 4 .200 Lost in First Round (WSH)
NYR 2011–12 82 51 24 - 7 109 1st in Atlantic 10 10 .500 Lost in Conference Finals (NJD)
NYR 2012–13 48 26 18 - 4 56 2nd in Atlantic 5 7 .417 Lost in Second Round (BOS) (Fired)
VAN 2013–14 82 36 35 - 11 83 5th in Pacific - - - Missed Playoffs (Fired)
Total 936 446 375 37 78 1007 3 Division Titles 43 46 .483 1 Stanley Cup

8 Playoff Appearances

* – Mid-season replacement

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]